Images from all over the world showing populations rejoicing because the heart of the “monster” had been hit: The United States, which has ruled over the world since World War II, by imposing their political, economical and cultural imperialism.
In the weeks that followed this incident, Americans were violently shaken into questioning their country’s innocence, as well as their profound belief that America had always done right by the world. Yet, they stood up and responded to the attack. They did so not by trying to figure out the reason they were targeted, but by developing a feeling of hatred towards the “other,” in particular towards Muslims who have now become, in the United States and the Western world, the enemy to fight against. This feeling gave rise to what we commonly call the crusades, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to the United States, the solution to this whole situation was simple: War would solve it all.
Let’s look at the situation 10 years later. How have mentalities evolved? What conclusions have we come up with? Have we really understood the significance of a day we will never forget? Or are we still, as citizens of the world, characterized by ignorance and hatred of each other? One should recall that the reactions caused by the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were essentially manifestations of hatred. Exactly like the war in Bosnia with the rape of 40, 000 Muslim women and the Rwandan Genocide, which occurred as a result of an indifference, stemming from all governments and authorities.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall to which we had all been prisoners, we believe in a new era. Released from the Cold War, the instigator of all conflicts since 1948, we stuck to Nelson Mandela’s message, wanting the 21st century to be a century of edification based on a free humanity. Ultimately, the goal was to work together in order to figure out a new strategy of common existence, a strategy which was fundamentally human.
This new strategy involves the introduction of a civic direction which will reject any solution related to terrorism, under any military, psychological, economical and sexual form. A solution that has been spread by antidemocratic groups and too often by governments.
The example of the Arab spring is a very clear sign that people fighting for their freedom in the face of dictators are clearly opposed to events such as 9/11. By sacrificing their lives, the Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, and Syrian peoples—and so many others to come—encourage us to no longer be satisfied with our so called democracies and with the pretentious speeches of our political and economical classes, and rather to use them in a way to make 9/11 close the parentheses on the control of our own citizen lives.
Unfortunately, the omnipresence of the extreme right wing discourse in the United States indicates that the lesson we should have learned from 9/11 has been replaced by feelings of revenge, hatred and suspicion. The fact that the legislative Assembly of Tennessee has passed a law stipulating that Islam’s main goal is to promote the national destruction of the United States and that Newt Gringrich (Republican candidate running for President) frequently repeats that American freedom is threatened by the proliferation of mosques are pertinent examples, highlighting the remaining presence of a hatred-filled climate.
Yet, in spite of the extreme right-wing discourse that has taken over the political scene in the United States, a few initiatives following 9/11 have been introduced that aim to bring changes to American society. Four days after 9/11, Betsy Wiggings, a resident of the city of Syracuse in the state of New York, welcomed into her home a veiled Muslim woman to discuss the attacks.
Ten years later, in that same place, Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Buddhist women still meet for dinner once a week and continue the discussion. These meetings gave birth to an organization called Women Transcending Boundaries, which, in the city of Syracuse, organizes marches incorporating stops at churches, synagogues, and mosques to collect funds dedicated to girls’ schools in Pakistan. Unfortunately, such events do not make headlines on CNN, FOX, etc… but still, there are other, similar initiatives being introduced.
Even in so-called developed countries, where we boast of our so-called democracies, we still notice among citizens a desire for transparency within the governance system, which appears in particular through the struggles against misinformation but also in actions for citizens to claim decision-making power, especially when it comes to the environment. Through these actions, that reflect a will to enlarge the groundwork on which our democracies function, we join the fights that are currently leading Arab populations and other populations elsewhere in the world towards creating their own democracies.
Yet, instead of encouraging democratic initiatives, many governments have responded by fighting against those popular movements by limiting access to social media, banishing blogs, closing Internet signals and limiting discussions and ultimately freedom of speech, consequently perpetuating the sense of restriction embodied by 9/11.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the aggressive attitudes that have followed are anti-democratic. The lesson to remember from those events is that we must enlarge our horizons, understand the “other,” and break down all borders that prevent us from really becoming citizens of the world.